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Predicting vulnerability to flood in two Midwestern communities


A study partially funded by CPO’s Sectoral Applications Research Program and published in Climatic Change revealed with modeling experiments on two Midwestern communities that various precipitation scenarios represent different states of vulnerability depending on the adaptive capability of their stormwater systems.
The paper states that adaptation strategies incorporating stormwater infiltration could reduce the cost of adaptation and provide more benefits than gray infrastructure alone. Researchers also found that implementing nonstructural green infrastructure is important to reduce flood and adaptation costs.
The study used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Stormwater Management Model to predict flooding in Victoria and Hiawatha, Minnesota. Both communities are located in Midwest United states, a region projected to experience some of the most extreme precipitation increases in the country.
Research points to climate change as a trigger for a wide range of impacts associated with the frequency and intensity of precipitation. The adaptability of drainage systems to such precipitation changes remains an area of growing concern and active research.
Read the paper:

Managing stormwater under climate uncertainty is a concern in both built-out communities and those continuing to undergo land use change. In this study, a suite of climate change scenarios were developed to represent a probable range of change in the 10-year recurrence interval design storm. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Stormwater Management Model was used to predict flooding due to undersized drainage components within watersheds representing a traditional, built-out urban area and a developing suburban area with intact green infrastructure corridors. Despite undersized infrastructure and flooding in both study watersheds, the risk of property damage in the suburban watershed was negligible across the range of scenarios even at projected build-out, due in part to flood storage capacity of the green infrastructure network. Adaptation approaches – including pipe upsizing, underground storage, and bioinfiltration – and costs were also modeled in both watersheds. In the built-out site, bioinfiltration practices were predicted to moderate both flooding and total adaptation costs even when implemented over a relatively modest (10 %) portion of the watershed; however, a substantial upgrade to gray stormwater infrastructure (pipes and storage chambers) was also needed to mitigate impacts. In the urbanizing community, maintaining an intact green infrastructure network was surmised to be the most cost-effective approach for enhancing the resilience of urban stormwater systems to climate uncertainties and urbanization.

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